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Gray Water Systems

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > House & Garden > Gray Water Systems

August 2008

I'm looking into gray water system. Does anyone know of a plumber who installs those? Or any other advice about it. Oren

The Ecology Center in Berkeley has information on their website & runs workshops at Berkeley's Eco House (Hopkins & Peralta) about grey water systems & the permitted system installed at the Eco House. Check it out at There was also a feature article in a recent East Bay Express, ''Kill Your Plumbing: The Greywater Guerrillas say it's time to use less water.'' See
I purchased (3) graywater systems that connect to your sink drain and transfer water through a filter and into your toilet tank. I love the idea, but was not able to use them on our remodel due to limited space constraints. You can review the system at These retail for $295.00 but I am willing to sell for only $125.00. rebecca
Start here: We are very fortunate in the Bay Area to have many active people willing to forgo the restrictive plumbing code and make things happen. You can visit the Eco House in Berkeley to see a successful gray water garden, and participate in a Guerillas workshop to learn how to do it yourself. If you want to go the permitted way, you can talk to Water Sprout ( who installed the Eco House one. Good luck. You're doing the right thing. Noemie
Try They installed the first permitted greywater system in Berkeley, which includes a small constructed wetland at the Berkeley Eco House. They offer a tour of that system if you want to learn more about it. You can get info at the Berkeley Ecology Center website. Claudia
My husband and I made a do-it-yourself gray water system for our shower and bathtub water. We've been using it all summer to water our flowers, and it works great. It was really easy to make. Here are the components; we got most of them from the hardware store:
1. 33-gallon plastic garbage can for the garden
2. ''Pondmaster'' garden fountain pump 250GPH (put it inside the garbage can to pump water out into the garden hose)
3. two lengths of half-inch ''ID'' clear plastic tubing (enough from bathtub to garbage can, and then another piece to make the garden hose)
4. siphon with a bulb (looks sort of like a giant turkey baster) for hand pumping water from the bathtub - it has a connector for the tubing
5. plastic bucket or wastebasket to collect water in the shower

When we're showering, we catch the ''waiting-for-it-to-get-hot'' water in one of those blue recycling cans you see in offices, and then try to catch as much other shower water as we can by positioning the plastic wastebasket in a good spot. We don't use the bathtub very often, but when we do, we save it all (unless somebody has used bath oil -- don't put that in your garden!) We pump the water out using the hand siphon, whether from the bathtub or the shower. It takes 15 or 20 good hard sqeezes to get the siphon action going, and then it just drains the rest of the way by itself.

We ran the clear plastic tubing out of our bathroom window, down under the rafters, and into the garbage can below. Bathroom is on the 2nd floor so this took about 50'. Another length of tubing becomes the garden hose - one end is attached to the pump inside the garbage can, and the other end is where the water comes out. We needed about 40' for this. When we are ready to water the garden, we plug the pump in, water the plants, and then unplug when we're done. Remember to keep the watering end of the garden hose higher than the water level in the garbage can - otherwise, it will all drain out!

Our 33-gallon garbage can fills up 2-3 times a week, so that is how often I water the garden with the reclaimed water. The water is not really that "gray" -- it is mostly the water that went down the drain before, waiting for it to get hot. So it is not very soapy. My roses look great!

We have found that we still need to supplement with the irrigation system, but we turned it way down to about 25% of what we used last summer. I also moved all the plants together that need regular water, so that we rarely need to water the other parts of the garden where the plants are more natives and drought tolerant. Our water bill this summer is half what it was last summer. (We have cut back on water in other ways too, of course, but watering the garden with gray water has really made a difference.)

A couple other notes: Originally, we had the water flow directly from the bathroom into a drip line in the garden, skipping the garbage can with pump step. This resulted in some plants getting plenty of water and others not getting any, and it was a pain to have to keep moving the drip line around. We then hit on the garbage can, and tried a small Pondmaster from Berkeley Hort. It wasn't strong enough to pump the water into the hose, so we found we needed a 250 GPH. We tried different kinds of tubing, but the clear plastic worked best - it's softer and more flexible and also not such an eyesore when it's snaking out of the bathroom window. It's more expensive though, so measure carefully.

There are better ways to do this, no doubt, but we didn't want to spend much time or money on it!

May 2008

I first heard of Grey Water Systems on NPR and I've since read a little and especially given the water shortage I'm very interested in learning more. Does anyone have insight or suggestions on this front? I'm sure there are local businesses who install grey water systems. I'd love to get some contacts of who I can call for an estimate. Has anyone had good experiences or bad with one of these systems? Or can someone weigh-in on the pro's and cons? We have a small yard but we want to continue to tend our garden during the shortage, hence the interest. Thanks for your insights and info. bkldy

I recommend you take the tour of the grey water system (first permitted system in Berkeley) at the Eco House. There will be one on June 1st (I'm signed up for it)and you can register at That system was installed by the DIG collective: Claudia
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